Sheriff says NJ will let ‘blacks do the f*** they want, smoke their marijuana’
A Democratic sheriff from North Jersey is facing pressure to resign after a radio station says he was caught on tape criticizing marijuana reform in racist terms and saying that the state's attorney general only got the job because he wears a turban.
The audio of Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino was obtained and described Thursday by WNYC. Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday called for his resignation "if indeed that is Sheriff Saudino's voice."
The station said the audio was secretly recorded back in January after Murphy's inauguration.
"He talked about the whole thing, the marijuana, sanctuary state...better criminal justice reform," Saudino, who is white, is quoted as saying by WNYC's online report. "Christ almighty, in other words let the blacks come in, do whatever the f*** they want, smoke their marijuana, do this do that, and don't worry about it. You know, we'll tie the hands of cops."
WNYC also says Saudino dismissed Murphy's appointment of Gurbir Grewal, who became the nation's first Sikh attorney general after serving as Bergen County prosecutor.
"He didn't do that because of Bergen County; he did that because of the turban," Saudino reportedly said about the appointment.
Murphy said that the audio came to his attention on Thursday.
"It's comments that [Lt. Gov.] Sheila [Oliver] and I and our entire administration find completely utterly unacceptable. Inconsistent with not just our values but New Jersey values, American values — and there is no choice as to the step that needs to be taken," Murphy told reporters reporters.
Murphy later released a statement by email: “Without question, the comments made on that recording are appalling, and anyone using racist, homophobic, and hateful language is unfit for public office. If indeed that is Sheriff Saudino's voice on the recording, he must resign."
The "homophobic" language was a reference to audio in which WNYC says Saudino speculated whether Oliver is a lesbian.
Grewal also responded in a prepared statement:
“I have now listened to the recording obtained by WNYC. If that is in fact Sheriff Saudino's voice, then he should resign immediately.
I’ve got thick skin and I've been called far worse. But the comments about the African-American community are wrong, racist, and hurtful. The comments about our Lieutenant Governor are inappropriate and homophobic. New Jersey and Bergen County deserve better.”
Saudino's office could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday afternoon. [UPDATE: Sheriff asks for forgiveness as calls for resignation pile on]
Murphy was elected on a platform that called for the legalization of recreational marijuana, which lawmakers continue to debate. In recent months, Grewal has provided guidance to municipal prosecutors to allow for greater discretion in prosecuting offenses involving small amounts of marijuana.
Saudino's office has been taking heat from immigration advocates because the county jail is among the facilities in the state that take millions of dollars from the feds to house immigration detainees.
Saudino was re-elected to his third term in 2016 as a Democrat even though he had previously been elected as a Republican. He was endorsed by The Record of Bergen County: "While we might question, as others have, the political motives behind Saudino’s switch of political party, we cannot question his commitment to public service, or the experience he’s gained in 45 years as a law enforcement officer."
Saudino previously served as police chief in Emerson.
Recent estimates for Bergen County show its population is 6 percent black, 17 percent Asian and 20 percent Latino. Nearly a third of the county's 950,000 are foreign born, with an estimated 110,000 living there without citizenship status.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.